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A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.
By Leonard Holler, WSBD regional director
“Do you have any tips for making our family business more successful?” Jill, Torrington
I recently read an article from Nation’s Business regarding this topic. It was several years old, but had some interesting insight into family business from David Bork, a consultant who has been advising family businesses since the late 1960s.
Here are some of the qualities he feels are essential to families in business together:
-- Shared values: A family should share similar values concerning people, work and money. This way you can have a shared vision for the future of the business.
-- Shared power: Not the same as “equal” power. It refers to mutual respect for one another’s talents and abilities among generations, spouses and siblings. Decisions should be deferred to the person with expertise in that area.
-- Traditions: The family should foster the new while renewing old traditions that bond the family together and set them apart from other families.
-- Willingness to learn and grow: The family should be open to new ideas and new approaches to solving problems within the business. Problems only are new opportunities to learn and grow together, even when different opinions arise.
-- Build relationships: Take time away from the family business to have fun together. The enjoyable times can help cope with the hard times and help sustain family relationships.
-- Genuine caring: Express feelings of concern for family members openly to let them know that you do care about them.
-- Mutual respect: You must have respect for one another to be able to do business together. Knowing that your family can depend on you and that you can depend on others builds trust and mutual respect.
-- Support for each other: Even if a relative is struggling, family members should assist and support one another. During times of grief, pain or even shame, be supportive.
-- Respect privacy: There is a lot of togetherness when in business with family members. Be respectful of one another’s individual privacy. Don’t step over the line.
-- Interpersonal boundaries: A common family-business-related problem is conflict between two relatives. Resist getting caught in the middle of a conflict that really needs to be resolved between the two.
Understanding which of these traits will help strengthen bonds is important to the success of a family business, according to Bork.
The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.